Tackling poor results

Sejankabo High School hogged the headlines last year for producing an overall matric pass rate of only 9,21%.

But now the school, in Seweding-Motsosheng village near Mafikeng in North West, has a new principal, who aims to turn around one of the country’s worst-performing schools.

Moliehi Qhobosheane joined Sejan-kabo High earlier this year. Her move was part of the North West department of educations intervention strategy to tackle poor results at schools.

Charles Raseala, spokesperson for the North West education department, said: “One of the approaches we are bringing in is to try to reshuffle staff members – from principal to educators – depending on the situation at a particular school.”

Sejankabo Highs previous principal, his deputy and three heads of departments were removed, paving the way for Qhobosheane, new heads of departments and a new deputy to join the school.

Qhobosheane’s track record suggests she might be the right person for the job. She started teaching mathematics in 1984 at Mmabatho High School, where she consistently produced good results. She later became head of the subject, before being appointed head of the school’s department responsible for discipline. She was appointed deputy principal at Kebonang Secondary School in 2000.

Qhobosheane told the Teacher she discovered low teacher morale, cliques and poor discipline among learners at Sejankabo.

She believed her first – and most important – task was to introduce a new culture and values to unite the school community into a close-knit family. “I figured out the main cause was a lack of leadership. The former principal was compromised as he was seen to be siding with one group. Teachers also felt they were not valued because major decisions were taken without their input,” she said.

To address the problem Qhobosheane introduced regular briefing sessions, where teachers can discuss issues openly and take decisions collectively. She refused to get involved in petty differences and focused rather on the bigger picture. She said this included being supportive and open-minded to suggestions and initiatives that teachers bring to her attention. But only if these “contribute towards turning the school around”.

“Already I have been approached by a teacher who wants to revitalise our library, which has been empty and dormant for a long time. She has organised learners to clean it and stock it with old books that were lying around,” Qhobosheane said.

She has received similar proposals from other teachers who want to form conservation and welfare clubs, all of which she has approved.

Qhobosheana has instituted a system to assess the performance of each learner. “This was an important area that needed to be improved as it would help to get a sense of the overall performance of each individual learner”.

Learners feature prominently in Qhobosheane’s plans. She said after the poor matric results, the morale of most learners had dipped. “I try to motivate and encourage them to work hard and to be disciplined”.

She has come up with a few innovations for grade 12 learners: afternoon and Saturday classes, educational excursions and study camps in September. “The idea is to supplement what they learned earlier, as well as to attend to and tackle areas where they are lacking. This will ensure that our grade 12 learners are prepared adequately for examinations.”

Qhobosheane has formulated various policies and procedures to streamline governance and the functionality of the school. One of these is monitoring the movement of teachers during school hours. She has initiated regular meetings with the parents of learners in all grades to assess and discuss their performances.

With everyone working together she is confident she will help to bring smiles to the faces of her staff members, learners and parents at the end of the year. Despite the strike, Qhobosheane’s goal for this year remains a pass rate of 50%.

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